Since the area's gentrification in the '80s, it's no secret Surry Hills is a little bit cool. So when the old KB Hotel closed its doors on Foveaux Street earlier this year, we're certain locals were wondering, just what will emerge? The answer: Keg & Brew, a "Southern American haven of bourbon, beer and bites" bringing back an old-school pub vibe and filling your schooner with something a little bit different and a little bit delicious.
While the South American thing isn't new, this pub's had a fun revamp. Previous frequenters of the KB (as well as sports lovers) will be pleased to know there's still a huge TV hanging on the wall, but we can forgive this blaring eyesore for two reasons: One, Keg & Brew stays true to its theme elsewhere: the large central bar is clad with furry cowhide and the back wall houses two gigantic stuffed animal heads with the odd portrait of Dolly Parton thrown in for good measure. And two, as we're assured by licensee Simon 'Wombat' Kraegen (ex-Dove & Olive), these guys don't want to drive away the original crowd. It's their goal not to be "wanky", especially when it comes to their booze collection, and to be honest we could all do with a little bit less wank in our lives.
With 33 individual taps of Aussie beer and cider, it's an extensive and exciting collection. Calling himself more a "beer lover", Wombat (identifiable by his ginormous beard of hip-storic proportions) knows a thing or two about the drops on offer, and not just because upon requesting something refreshing and delicious, our glass of new-on-the-market, Sydney-based Angstrom Voltaic Pale Ale was indeed both, but because when two evident beer enthusiasts came knocking 10 minutes after our arrival, they were genuinely pleased with the offerings and knowledge on display. Other standouts to get down your neck include the three hand-pumped craft beers, but if you're looking for something simple, classics like Resch's, Carlton and, of course, VB, haven't been overlooked.
Bourbon drinkers have 30 different concoctions to enjoy, as well as three signature house bourbon cocktails: a sour, an Old Fashioned and a Manhattan (all $15). The Rittenhouse straight rye whisky used in the Manhattan was a good choice, making the three maraschino cherries a divine little end to a powerful pre-dinner tipple.
Speaking of, some of the food here, provided by head chef Devendra Sherchan (also Dove & Olive) is ridiculous, in a so-good-but-bad-for-you kinda way. Bites like deep-fried Monterey Jack cheese sticks (think giant Wotsits but more cheese and zero corn puff, $10) and deep fried bacon (aka Big Tex Bacon Bites, also $10) are just a little bit addictive. For a more substantial feed, we tore apart the BBQ ribs ($25) and Kentucky Bourbon Black Angus Rump ($18), served with french fries (and the former with 'slaw), and they were just what the doctor ordered, beer-in-hand on a Wednesday evening.
The more health conscious will enjoy the fact the quinoa salad ($14) is actually quite flavoursome, plus vegans aren't forgotten, with a maple glazed polenta cake ($15) on the menu. There are also deep-fried Twinkies with melted chocolate and sprinkles ($10) for dessert. See what we mean about ridiculous?
Potential cholesterol problems aside, whether you're coming to eat, drink or both, we reckon an evening at Keg & Brew should be finished with a Slow & Low Rock and Rye whisky on the rocks and a side of good chat at the bar. And if that isn't a sign of a true-blue, no-nonsense but still pretty fabulous pub suited to its Surry Hills location, we don't know what is.